Sometimes it just isn’t simple, is it? Sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s broken hearts and tough decisions and just keeping our heads above the water.

A post about complication and chaos might not seem like a good fit for a simple living blog at first glance, but something tells me I’m not the only one whose life sometimes runs right off the rails, despite my desire to live simply.

I know that most of the Art of Simple writers and I can tell you that, even though we write in a place where the focus is on the art of simple living, each of us has had times in our lives that seemed anything but simple.

I’m pretty open about certain aspects of my life, like our debt and my depression, but I don’t talk about specifics and how they impact my life, such as why my special needs sister-in-law came to live with us, or exactly what almost broke my marriage (it’s probably not what you think), and the reason is that they aren’t my stories to tell. Or at least not mine alone. I mention them now to show you that I’m not a stranger to hard times.

But you and I don’t need to know all of the gritty details of our lives to be helpful to each other.

This brings me my purpose today. I want you to know that if your life seems complicated and overwhelming right now, you’re not alone: I’ve been there.

Here are give things to remember when your situation isn’t simple.

1. Remember to simplify what you CAN.

When it seems like everything is out of control and chaotic, seek out the things which you can keep simple. If it helps, write a list of the things you want to focus on keeping as simple as possible, essentials only. Be practical.

That list might look like this:

  • Simple meals – soup and salad anyone? I keep this post from Simple Bites handy for when putting dinner on the table is overwhelming.
  • A simple calendar – what commitments can you gracefully bow out of? What can you postpone? Clear some space, give yourself downtime (I know sometimes this just cannot be helped, but do what you can).
  • Simple homekeeping – in times of crisis, my focus is on dishes, laundry, and cleaning up spills, because those are the things that keep the household functioning – and keep the stink away – until life gets back to normal. Many hands make light work, so enlist help where you can get it. But if the freezer isn’t deep cleaned or the carpets don’t get shampooed this season, you know what? That’s okay. This is pick-your-battles time.

2. Remember to set boundaries.

I talked about this in a post I wrote about personal finances last year. The sentiment holds true for other scenarios, too: the idea of living within your means is sometimes about more than money. Your emotions and your time are also valuable commodities.

If you find yourself feeling worried or anger over a relationship or a circumstance, that’s probably a clue you need to set some boundaries, so trust your instincts. You are entitled to set limits. You are allowed to say “no” or “not right now.” You can give an explanation if you want to, but that’s not an obligation either.

3. Remember not to further complicate things with guilt.

I’m a believer in the 80/20 rule. Don’t carry guilt if you need paper plates on the table and disposable diapers on the baby to get you through, for example. Odds are what you are going through is difficult enough without adding guilt and self-loathing into the mix.

Remember that one person’s simple might well be another person’s complicated. It’s okay to step away from things that don’t work for you and your family so that you can find what does work.

4. Remember to take care of yourself.

I had a revelation during the long winter: I’m not high maintenance BUT (and this is a big one) that doesn’t mean I’m no maintenance.

5. Remember your WHY.

Life can be difficult and circumstances can be anything but simple. But that doesn’t mean we let go of our vision. In fact, the challenge might even be the catalyst we need to reaffirm our commitment to a simple way of life.

Maybe this time is the test that tells us what really rings true?

We are human, and flawed goes with the territory. But so does beauty, friends! And loving your flawed, beautiful life in the face of whatever challenges are in front of you seems to me like a task – even an art form – worth pursuing.

Perhaps it really is as simple as that? I hope so.